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I referred earlier to the need to strengthen Committees of Parliament so that they can provide better inputs into legislation, but recent experience indicates that there is much more that should be done to ensure better legislation for the country. I have realized now that we are perhaps the weakest country with regard to formal procedures, amongst those that can claim to have strong democratic traditions. This may well lead to the erosion of democracy that we simplistically diagnose in terms of people, without due attention to the processes that are so vital for democracy.

This danger is obvious if we consider the current common belief that problems with regard to the Chief Justice arose when the initial Supreme Court judgment on the Divineguma Bill was delivered. When the Parliamentary Group met that day, I suggested that this judgment, following on several previous bills of great importance having failed to get through Parliament in the previous two years, indicated that we needed to be more careful about legislation.

This suggestion was repudiated, on the grounds that the Supreme Court was biased, and even the Attorney General under whose aegis the Bill had been drawn up had found, being now on the Supreme Court, that it needed amendment. Given the different areas of responsibility in the Attorney General’s Department, this did not strike me as evidence of inconsistency, and I am happy to say that now Members of the Cabinet have declared that the Supreme Court had suggested some sensible amendments that government should have introduced from the start.

I believe this vindicates my position, that government has been far too careless about legislation recently. This is not always because of haste, given that indeed one crucial measure has had to be dropped for the moment because of delays at the Legal Draughtsman’s Department. I refer to the attempt of the Ministry of Higher Education to encourage private and non-profit tertiary education, something this country urgently needs if our youngsters are to benefit from the economic opportunities our infrastructural development programmes have created. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

May 2013
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